In the middle of the Atlantic, the Azores safeguard gorgeous landscapes and special wines
Truth be told, wine tourism is underdeveloped in the Azores. But don’t let that bring you down: any cellar will gladly open its doors, welcome you, and let you try its very different and exclusive wines. In Azores, grape vines are planted very close to the sea, in volcanic soil and the weather is wet. Such combination makes local wines rather mineral, fresh and salty to taste.
The archipelago is made up of 9 islands, 4 of which produce wine, though the most popular one is Pico Island. It is famous for its fortified dry wines, nevertheless you will be pleasantly surprised by the white ones too! Its vineyards were classified World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2004, thanks to their striving alongside basalt stone walls (“currais”) protecting them against sea winds.
I visited Czar Cellar where the famous wine is produced without adding spirits – a very dry wine with high alcoholic content, which owes its name to the uncountable times it was served to Russian czars during royal banquets. Also in Pico Island, the winery A Buraca set up a museum with ancient artifacts from several local trades, such as agriculture, embroidery and wickerwork. In its cellar you’ll be able to sample the fortified Buraca Wine, paired by delectable local cheese!
Terceira, Graciosa and São Miguel also produce wine, on a minor scale, and are worthwhile a visit.
In Terceira – which capital Angra do Heroísmo is a World Heritage site as well – I recommend a visit to the Wine Museum of Biscoitos, where you’ll travel back to the workaday life of wine making in the beginning of the century. In Graciosa, you must absolutely stop at Queijadas factory and try their freshly made cheese tarts, along with a goblet of Angelica, a sweet liqueur like wine.
Finally, my personal favourite island, São Miguel! Here, do get lost among pineapple and Gorreana tea fields, lagoons and hot springs, cheese and meat stew!
Don’t forget to make time for a visit to Quinta da Jardinete, a manor dating from 1850 with beautiful gardens home to, among several fruit trees, some large samples of an uncommon grape vine in the archipelago: Merlot and Chardonnay. Thus, the red and white wines produced here, are different from what you’ll usually find on these islands, but made with love and care, making the best of weather and soil attributes.
Actually, the same goes for all the wines made in Azores!